AND THEY ARE OFF… An estimated 200 runners and walkers taking off for the 4th annual St. Patrick’s Day 5K and walk. Chilly weather did not deter these runners from the 9 a.m. race start in Coloma Saturday morning. For top race results see the Coloma Press Box on Page 10. (TCR photo by Teresa Smithers)
Watervliet Township plans numerous public hearings before final vote to adopt medical marijuana ordinance
By Annette Christie
Watervliet Township officials are giving the public multiple opportunities to address the possibility of medical marijuana facilities being allowed in the township. At their Monday, March 18, 2019 meeting a list of public meetings were released on the subject in addition to a press release to bring the public up to speed on how the township board got to where they are now.
It was first during a special meeting on December 5, 2018 that the township board voted unanimously to opt in, or permit licensed medical marijuana facilities within the jurisdictional boundaries of the township and instructed the township’s Planning Commission to study and research the matter and draft a Medical Marijuana Facilities Ordinance that would permit certain types of facilities in certain zoning districts within the township and impose certain restrictions and conditions controlling their operation.
After several meetings and exhaustive research which included visits and on-site inspections of existing facilities in other municipalities, the Planning Commission has drafted a Medical Marijuana Facilities Ordinance that they feel strikes a balance of permitting the free enterprise of those investing in those operations and protecting the interests of the residents of Watervliet Township.
The State of Michigan’s authorizing statute permits five different types of medical marijuana facilities that may be located in any jurisdiction, being: grow facilities where the medical marijuana plants are grown; processing facilities where the plants are turned into usable products for those individuals possessing medical marijuana cards; provisioning centers where authorized individuals may purchase medical marijuana products; safety compliance facilities which are testing labs that verify the products are safe to use and possess the proper amount of medically beneficial ingredients; and secure transportation which is the only method, permitted by law, that the raw materials and processed goods can be transported to testing facilities or provisioning centers.
The Planning Commission’s draft ordinance tentatively permits not more than six grow facilities and not more than three processing facilities that can only be located in the industrial zoning district. The ordinance further stipulated that the township will not permit more than four provisioning centers and there shall be no limit on safety compliance or secure transport facilities all of which must be located in the commercial zoning district only. All facilities must apply to the State of Michigan and to the township for licenses to operate and must possess both licenses prior to operation.
Supervisor Dan Hutchins commented that he is not aware of any comments by the public either for or against and he fears that when the official action is taken, it will be then that members of the public will question why, but at that point, it will be too late. He wants to make sure that the public has plenty of opportunities to comment either way to both the Planning Commission as well the Township Board which includes daytime hearings, nighttime hearings, and even a Saturday morning.
Public Hearings scheduled
The Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on March 26, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. at the Watervliet Township Hall, 4959 M-140 Hwy. to hear any questions, concerns or comments regarding these facilities and the content of the proposed ordinance. In addition, a public hearing will be held prior to the regular Township Board meeting on Monday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. Finally, on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. the public will have one more opportunity to speak.
Hutchins commented that this whole process has been done with the utmost transparency. Hutchins commented, “I don’t see this train getting off the rails, by June or earlier I would expect it to be approved.”
All individuals with an interest are encouraged to attend and participate in this legislative process. If they have any questions or comments prior to the meeting, they can mail any correspondence to the Township Hall at the above address or phone the township’s Zoning Department at (269) 463-5113. The content of all correspondence and phone calls will be presented to the Planning Commission at that meeting.
Parks and Recreation 5-year plan
The board also held their final public hearing on the Parks and Recreation 5-year plan.
Cindy LaGrow with LaGrow Consulting stated that it was December 18, 2018 when the public was officially noticed of the 2020-2024 plan that lays out the vision of the board with regard to park and recreation opportunities within the township. LaGrow said that through the process she has heard from about 100 people and most talked about all parks being open to the public and at no charge. Those that commented wanted multi-use facilities, pickle ball, walking trails and biking trails that connect the township to the city.
The plan includes two newly acquired properties referred to as Airport Park and Mill Park. LaGrow has paid significant attention to the newest property, adjacent to the township hall “Airport Park”. She met with Wightman & Associates to establish some proposed uses of the park and she is looking to them for some funding estimates that will be used to try and obtain a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant.
The very first rough draft of the proposed park project was revealed and included multi-use fields for soccer, football, lacrosse, a pickleball court(s), ice skating, basketball courts, concession stand and restroom facilities. LaGrow said that when you include with new construction, development of drainage, utilities, lighting, and all of those things, the very rough number comes out to about $1 million to develop that property.
She stated that when the final estimates come in from Wightman, she will get them to the township board for the final approval of the grant application prior to the April 1 deadline. The hang-up will be whether the township board wants to commit to a 25% match (minimum required) or the 50% match that LaGrow said would score them higher in the grant process and therefore, make it more likely that they would receive it.
LaGrow will be attending a March 29, 2019 special meeting at 2:00 p.m. for the final approval of the grant application. This is also when the public hearing for the 2019-2020 budget will be held.
The board approved a three-year contract with Hungerford Nichols for audit services. The township will pay annually $17,000, $17,500, and $18,000 respectively for the term of the contract. Clerk Patt Bambrick complimented the auditors and the process.
They also approved a shared services agreement with the City of Watervliet for school safety purposes. For years the city and the township have shared in the costs of school crossing guards, signage, signals, etc.; however, the agreement had not been in writing. Hutchins commented that they had both been doing this forever it just wasn’t in a formal agreement. The city has already approved the agreement.
Hutchins announced that landfill passes are at the township hall and will be available after the April meeting. The passes are available to one per household and are for the month of May.
St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Coloma saw big attendance despite the brisk weather
By Teresa Smithers Saturday, March 16, dawned frosty and sunny, whispering icy promises of spring as Coloma’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration began. Festivities started as nearly 200 people (and some dogs) gathered at 9:00 a.m. for the fourth annual Coloma St. Patrick’s Day 5K Walk and Run organized by the Southwest Michigan Racers. Many people were seen perusing the shelves of books at the Coloma Library used book sale. Their purchases will help the library to purchase more books and other supplies.
SAY SHAMROCKS… Ellie (left) and Lyla (right) Current, award winners in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Saturday night, smile for the camera with Coloma’s Miss Teen Grace Larsen. Their parents are Garth Current and Rebecca Atherton of Coloma.
At 2:00 p.m. the North Berrien Historical Museum welcomed 44 children and adults to enjoy a free Irish-American scavenger hunt that led to a pot of gold. Over half of the participants received St. Patrick’s Day tattoos from the latest feature, “Paddy’s Tattoo Parlour.”
MUSEUM SPECIAL GUEST… “Skylor the Leprechaun” stopped by the North Berrien Historical Museum to visit with the St. Pat’s scavenger hunt participants on Saturday. Pictured here with Coloma’s own Leprechaun is Jack Greve (left), curator at the museum and Peter Cook (right), N.B. Historical Museum program director. (TCR photo by Teresa Smithers)
For the hungry celebration goers, area bars offered Irish corned beef and cabbage, washed down with green beer, and Coloma United Methodist Church served up an old-fashioned Irish Stew dinner. As Coloma dressed up for their annual celebration, the festival planning committee encouraged businesses to participate in the decorated window display contest. This year’s winner is Four Seasons Spa & Pool Services. The celebration culminated after dark with a beautiful lighted parade. Hundreds of people lined the main street of Coloma to see the lighted floats, bands and vehicles. Overall parade winner was Coloma Lions Club. In the floats division, Freshwater Church, with their beautiful serenade, was awarded first place. Second place was awarded to Lyla Current. In the costumes division, Ellie Current with her goat was awarded first place. Lyla and Ellie are the daughters of Garth Current and Rebecca Atherton of Coloma. Coloma High School Marching Band was awarded first place in the marching division; Coloma Lionesses was awarded second place; and Girl Scout Troop #90508 was awarded third place. In the decorated vehicle division, Honor Credit Union was awarded first place, followed by Centsible Heating (thanks for the hand warmers thrown to parade watchers!) in second place. Third-place honors went to Easy Street Inn. North Berrien Fire Rescue was awarded first place in the municipalities division. Second place was awarded to Berrien County Animal Control, and Coloma Public Works received the third-place award.
LIGHTED FIRE TRUCK… The North Berrien Fire Rescue fire truck had festive lights lit instead of emergency lights going during the Lighted Parade event in the Coloma St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on March 16. NBFR was awarded first place in the municipalities division of the parade. (TCR photo by Teresa Smithers)
Coloma Township officials approve bond sales
By Annette Christie
Coloma Township officials did their part to steer a major infrastructure improvement project in the works for the Paw Paw Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant. They are one of four members that own the plant.
Dan Fette, Berrien County Community Development Director presented the information to the board at their Wednesday, March 13, 2019 meeting on behalf of the Berrien County Public Works Board. He stated that the Public Works Board was established about 50 years ago to help issue bonds for municipal improvement projects.
About 2-3 months ago, Fette said they were asked to become involved in the wastewater treatment project for replacing the clarifiers as well as refinancing a previous loan. Fette noted that the treatment plant themselves, do not have the ability to borrow on their own; however, all four of the communities that own it can by approving initiating resolutions of support.
The project will involve $1.475 million dollars with a 3% interest rate for a 10-year bond. He explained that once all four of the municipalities approve the initiating resolution, the Board of Public Works will comply and the Berrien County Board of Commissioners will then approve the project. All of the municipalities will approve a contract and then the bonds will be sold.
Washington School Park
The board received a Parks and Recreation Committee update from Tony Bertuca, chairperson of the committee. He said they have met with the baseball league representatives and are working on the agreement with them for the ball fields at Washington School Park. He discussed some things they would like to improve at that park but know that the funding may not be there to do that.
There was some discussion about some fencing around a pond. Treasurer Jim Fulton noted that they should make sure they get the figures put into a budget so the Finance Committee can look at it.
Police Chief Wesley Smigielski introduced his new sergeant, Brett Langston. Langston has worked for the Coloma Township Police Department for 20 years. The South Haven native completed recruit school at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. He has previous police services experience with the City of Watervliet Police Department.
In an update from last month, Smigielski said that he is continuing the work with the Coloma Schools Superintendent on the idea of having a school resource officer in the district and the community. He said he hopes to have contracts ready for the school board and the township board to approve in May.